Protecting your home's value
How to protect your home's worth if your area is hit hard by foreclosures.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Foreclosures can affect the value of your property even if you've been paying your mortgage faithfully. Here are some ways you can protect your home's worth if your area is hit hard by foreclosures.
1: Know the effect
Subprime foreclosures will cause 44.5 million homes to lose a total of $223 billion in wealth over the next few years. This works out to about a $5,000 loss on nearby households, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.
It's estimated that for every foreclosure in your neighborhood, your home value decreases about 1 percent. Foreclosures damage neighborhood stability.
Buyers are skittish about buying in your neighborhood. Plus, foreclosures affect how real estate agents decide to value your home.
2: Estimate your homes worth
Foreclosure rates are highest in California, Ohio and Florida according to the latest results from RealtyTrac. But the weakness in the housing market is evident almost everywhere.
Home prices have seen their smallest increase in 13 years according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. If you bought at the top of your market, your best bet is to stay put.
For example, if you bought a home in Las Vegas at the end of 2006 and you paid about $200,000, today, your home's estimated value is about $195,900.
To figure out what your home's value is estimated at, check out ofheo.gov and click on "House Price Calculator."
3: Scale back the projects
Now is not the time to do major home renovations. Upgrades don't always pay off when you sell.
This year homeowners won't be recovering much of the share of costs for remodeling according to a recent cost vs. value survey from Remodeling Magazine.
For example, in 2005, most projects returned at least 85 cents on the dollar. Today, only less than a quarter of these projects return the same amount. You don't want to go adding trendy finishes or an addition onto your deck if homes in the area don't have these amenities.
The bottom line: Don't expect a future buyer to pay up for the luxury you considered an essential. Keep up with the Joneses, but there's no need to over-improve.
If you live in Las Vegas, California or Arizona, you may think about adding more practical upgrades like a back-up power generator. You'll recoup about 60 percent of your costs according to the survey.
4: Join forces
Sometimes just pitching in to take care of the little things can have a significant impact. Join a neighborhood watch program so you'll be able to spot foreclosed properties that are beginning to decay.
Pull some weeds, plant some flowers or mow the lawn. This may help bolster your own property value. The last thing you want is an eyesore next door. If the property is becoming a safety hazard, you'll need to contact the police.
And of course, if you've heard of people in your area that are having trouble paying their mortgage, or even if you think you're afraid of going into foreclosure, seek help now.
Contact the Home for Ownership Preservation Foundation at 888-995-HOPE. The Department of Housing and Urban Development can also set you up with a counselor. Call 800-569-4287 to get assistance in your community.